Someone on the Compulsion Games forum for We Happy Few was concerned that there is another game out there, Lisa the Painful, where people take a happy drug called Joy. Did we steal the idea?
No, obviously not. I came up with the name Joy in roughly February 2014. That game came out in December 2014. (I had to look it up; I've never heard of it.)
The reason we called our in-game drug Joy is it makes you really happy. Joy is the #1 English word for "surpassing happiness." Probably anyone who was looking for a name for a drug that makes you really happy would at least consider the word "Joy."
I can't take credit for the happy drugs idea. One of our inspirations was Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, which is about a society where people take a pill called "soma." But our main inspiration is North American happy culture. Depressed? Take a Prozac. Stressed? Take a Valium. Bad news? Don't put it on Facebook! Only Downers put bad news on Facebook!
(Not that I'm against anti-depressants. They help a lot of people.)
Point is: talking about happy drugs is an obvious thing to do if you live in our society, just as making a movie about alcoholics was obvious in 1950.
As a screenwriter and story editor, I've seen any number of my ideas duplicated in films and TV shows I didn't write, sometimes produced by production companies that saw my pitch. That's not because my ideas were stolen. It's because certain ideas are bubbling up to the top of the zeitgeist stew at any given time. I was pitching a hacker action movie a year before The Net came out. But so was everyone else. I was pitching a Pretty Boy Floyd movie a year before Larry McMurtry was tapped to develop a Pretty Boy Floyd project.
Roger Corman was asked about the similarities between his cheapo film Carnosaur and Jurassic Park. "Steven Spielberg is an honest man," said the King of the B's. "I don't for a second think he would steal my idea!"
You can't copyright an idea; you can only copyright the execution of an idea. You can't copyright "game about people who take happy drugs" because making a game about people who take happy drugs is "obvious." Anyone can get there by just observing the world. What makes our game unique -- or the other game unique -- is how that idea is elaborated in plot and character.
But the novelist advised would-be writers that they should not choose the career “as a way to make money, to make a name for yourself or any of these other external things.
“If you have to write, if the stories are in you, if you made up names and stories for your toy spacemen when you were little, if the stories come to you, ask yourself the question, ‘What if no one ever gives me a penny for my stories? Will I still write them?’ And if the answer is ‘yes’, then you’re a writer,” he said. “Then you have to be a writer. It’s the only thing you can do. If the answer is ‘No, I’m going to quit after a few years because I’m not selling’, then maybe you should quit right now and learn computer science. I hear there’s a real future in these computer things.”
The past two weeks I’ve been primarily writing and recording (and occasionally editing) encounters. Also, more systemic barks, and more passive conversations you’ll overhear if you stealth around. (I don’t think any are in the game yet, but we’ve recorded a passel.)
Encounters are odd beasts. I get the bones of them from David. He’ll say something like “a bunch of Wastrels are cooking a rubber ducky in a stew pot. If you get the duck, you get a recipe for Rick the Stunt Duck.”
Then I’ll say, “Okay, what’s the nonlethal version?” (We have been making progress towards the functionality that would allow a nonlethal playthrough; I think you’ll see it working in the next build. Although playing nonlethally will be a huge challenge, I think it introduces a moral dimension to combat.) And David will say, okay, if you talk to all of them, you get the ducky. And if you talk to all of them the next day, you get something else.”
So now it’s in my court. Why are four Wastrels cooking a rubber duck? What do they think the ducky is? How does your talking to them make them give you the ducky? (And by “talking,” I actually mean, “clicking E to interact.”) What changes in their perspective on life now that they’ve given up their ducky? How can I make that ridiculous and yet somehow humanly truthful?
A fair amount of my job is retconning David’s designs. “If this made sense, what sort of sense would it make?”
Meanwhile, the team keep me busy with questions like “what should be scribbled on this rock” to “what should we call this park on the map” to “what’s the tooltip for a bucket? Okay, how about a bucket full of Motilene?” to “what do you hear when you pick up a phone in the Garden District?” to “what do you call the hole a Bobby pops out of?”